Dr Vaux has made outstanding discoveries regarding programmed cell death. His identification of Bcl-2 as its first molecular regulator forged the link between inhibition of cell death and cancer and thrust apoptosis to the centre stage of biomedical research. Then, he established that the underlying genetic program was of great antiquity by showing that human Bcl-2 could prevent cell death even in the nematode. Later his laboratory identified another class of cellular apoptotic regulators, the inhibitor of apoptosis proteins, in organisms from yeast to man, and discovered their first mammalian regulator. His discoveries have wide implications for biology and medicine.